It seems like we get a news alert on our phones every week about another pedestrian being struck by a vehicle in the upstate. Many times these reports are for pedestrians trying to cross one of our major 4 or 5 lane roads well after dark. And while this is anecdotal, according to Dangerous by Design 2016, a report issued by Smart Growth America, we are the 31st most dangerous metropolitan area in the country to walk.
The Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin metro area’s Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) ranks it 31 out of the top 104 largest metropolitan areas in the country. The PDI is a calculation of the share of local commuters who walk to work and the most recent data on pedestrian deaths. Even though we have a small number of Greenville County residents walking to work (only 1.6% according to the 2015 American Community Survey), the entire metro area lost 162 lives to pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes between 2005 and 2014. Furthermore, the state of South Carolina has the seventh-highest PDI in the nation – with 1,057 pedestrian fatalities from 2005 to 2014.
You may be wondering why this matters if such a small percentage of people walk, and the reason is that each one of the 162 Upstate residents who lost their life was a member of our community. They may have been a child, a friend, or a neighbor who was walking to work, to school, to church, to catch the bus, or to improve their physical health.
Data shows that designing for people not just for cars helps improve safety for all modes of travel. Reducing the number of car lanes, installing sidewalks and bike lanes, building medians at pedestrian crossings, and most importantly reducing the traffic speed can all help reduce crashes
In Greenville County we have a long way to go in changing from a car centric to a people centric transportation infrastructure. The City of Greenville leads the way by funding new sidewalks each year through the Neighborhood Sidewalk Targeted Expansion Program (NSTEP). Recently City Council member David Sudduth was quoted in the Greenville Journal:
Sudduth said he led the effort to double the money the city spends on repaving city streets and building new sidewalks. “Even at $1 million a year, people have to wait more than 50 years to get their street repaved. That’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable to have to wait 15 to 20 years to get a sidewalk.”
Our research has shown there are no dedicated annual budgets at the County level or within the other municipalities for pedestrian improvements. The regional GPATS has a list of 65 intersection improvement projects, to be done by 2035 but these projects are primarily for cars not for people.
The City of Greenville comprises only 29 square miles within the 795-square-mile county of Greenville. As a result, saving lives in our metro area will require a committed effort by all municipalities in the county – not just the City of Greenville.
As advocates our challenge is to continue communicate to our elected officials that we must dedicate more funding to making our infrastructure safer for people.